Homilies – May 2016

SUNDAY 1 May 2016
Acts of the Apostles 15:1-2, 22-29 Revelations 21:10-14, 22-23 John 14:23-29

We are now moving towards the end of the Easter Season. Next week we have the great Feast of the Ascension and the week after the pivotal Feast of Pentecost.

So, once again, in the Easter readings of today we see the Early Church in embryonic form. There is always a balance between love and law. There is the encounter with the Risen Lord, which is the hallmark of Easter. And also, there is the presence of the Holy Spirit, both promised and realised, as the Early Church becomes what it is called to be – the Community of the Holy Spirit.

I have always found it interesting in the Easter readings that the Early Church avoids all extremes. For example, to have a Church without love, that is a Church without the encounter of the Holy Spirit within us, the Church becomes a museum piece. There is no real life. There is no transcendent life. There is no eternal life. We simply become a museum place of historic churches, colossal paintings and masterpieces of sculpture and the like

On the other hand, to have a Church without any sort of law and order is to have an almighty mess! There is no unity here. There must always be order and a freeing law of the Holy Spirit that unites us as one body in Christ.

The issue is to bring into harmony both love and law.

We see this in the promise of the Gospel. The Lord promises his disciples that He will “make our home with him.” There is the promise “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” The Easter Lord always promises peace. It’s not any sort of peace. It is “a peace the world cannot give; this is my gift to you.” So we are “not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid.”

The living out of that is easier said than done.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of significant disagreements in the nascent Church. We hear that “Paul and Barnabas had a long argument.” The issue in this case was whether those of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia needed to be circumcised before they became members of the Church. This approach was ultimately rejected by the Early Church. They sent Paul and Barnabas and Barsabbas and Silas to these lands in disagreement and reassured them “That some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us.” It is of great interest to note how they expressed the way forward. It is to make sure that the Holy Spirit leads them in a way that doesn’t burden people. “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burdens beyond these essentials.”

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis too would place the Church in the midst of this creative challenge between love and law.

In his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, we see Pope Francis, like the Early Church, trying to balance extremes and place the encounter with the Lord in an ecclesial setting.

It is a matter of harmonising the complex reality of today’s “patchwork” family arrangements with the ideal vision of marriage and family life. Like in the Acts of the Apostles, this is no easy matter.

Let us pray in this Mass, which we now continue, that our encounter with the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us in the Church. In the midst of our many difficulties of today, may we also find strength to make sure that the principle of unity, that all is one is Christ, draws us together.

Clearly, the perfect balance between law and love is not a philosophical proposition or some sort of executive plan. Rather, the unity between law and love is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ our Easter Lord and Saviour. Alleluia!


SUNDAY 15 May 2016
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11  Romans 8:8-17  John 14:15-16. 2-26

 I welcome the 42 children and their family and sponsors to our Pentecost Mass in which we will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.

This important moment of Confirmation allows me to only say a few brief words.

Therefore, I will offer you two words that I think are central to the understanding of Pentecost Sunday. The words are Breath and Receive.

In the First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the first Pentecost Day of the Apostles gathered together with Mary. They are all in one room, and then all of a sudden they hear something most unusual. It is the sound “like a powerful wind from heaven.” It was the wind of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is often given images like fire, and wind, and oil, and the dove, and so on. I’d like to just ponder for a moment with you on the notion of wind. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit breathing on the Early Church. The biblical word for this type of breath is “Ruah.” The ruah of God coming upon the early Church makes the Church. Jesus is not longer there physically, but he is now there in another way fully. It is his breath, his “ruah” that intoxicates the Early Church and helps fearful people locked in a closed room after the scandal of Calvary, to now become men and women of great joy, hope and people of courage. After the breath of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, they leave the closed room never more to lock themselves away. They are to be the presence of God in the world. They are to be His pilgrim people. They are to be His Church. We continue with the presence of God as strong with us today as it was in the Early Church, although we may feel sometimes otherwise.

We recall from the days of the Ascension where Jesus says “I will be with you always until the end of time.” May we never doubt that Jesus is with us right now in this Confirmation Mass. Not only is He going to come deeper into the children’s lives with the Gifts and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in a few moments, but the invitation of the Holy Spirit for all of us, including myself. Let us allow the Lord to breathe on us. Let his “ruah” go deep within us like never before. The oil that I will use, which is called Chrism, was breathed over by myself at the Chrism Mass just before last Easter. Parents breathe on their children lovingly and give them strength in all sorts of different ways. May we be strengthened by the Spirit who calls us to be courageous Christians in very fragile and difficult times for Christianity.

The second word if the word ‘Receive’.

When Jesus, the Easter and Risen Lord, enters into the locked room, in one of the Gospels He says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Not only is Pentecost a moment of being breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, but we must open ourselves to receive this inbreath of God deep within. By receiving the Lord Jesus, we say “Yes” to His action and presence in our lives. We say “Yes’ that we will receive His mandate to be His presence to the world in which we live; not just today, but for all the days of our life. It is important word …Receive.

Can I just leave you now with a little way of bringing these two words together in a prayer form?

God has given us the capacity to breathe in and to breathe out. Particularly if we find it difficult to pray, or don’t know the time or place to pray, we can pray in the simplest of all ways… through the example of our own breathing.

When we breathe in, we can receive the Holy Spirit afresh in our lives. We breathe deeply to enable our bodies to help us to live out what our mind, heart and being desires. We receive the Lord and all that He wants to give us as we breathe in.

As we breathe out, we breathe out into the world and to all those challenges and all the people who come into our presence, either at home or in our work place or in our neighbourhoods. We breathe out the Sprit of the Living God living in us upon them.

So see how simple prayer can be? We breathe in and receive; we breathe out and become missionaries.

Everybody can do this. It’s the simplest of all prayers. Can you please remember this simple prayer in the days ahead and make it a part of your life. Even when we’re driving, or walking, or even talking to people who cause us concern, we can respond to life at another deeper level as we engage in our everyday activities. We breathe in and breathe out knowing that God is living in us and using us for His greater glory.

That is exactly our prayer for the children I will now confirm. May you know, dear children, God’s love for you as you breathe Him into your lives afresh, and for the rest of your lives remember this day as you begin to breathe out into the world as full Catholics the “ruah” of God made present in Jesus Christ.


SUNDAY 22 May 2016
Proverbs 8:22-31  Romans 5:1-5  John 16:12-15

Throughout the world today, we celebrate the great Solemnity of The Holy Trinity.

Last weekend we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, and next Sunday Corpus Christi. These three Solemnities are great celebrations of our fundamental Catholic Christian beliefs.

Although absolutely essential to our Catholic Christian identity, Trinity Sunday is sometimes the most obscure of these great Solemnities.

Occasionally, when I have been in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, they do ask me about this Christian belief. They ask me, “Are Christian monotheists or polytheists?” I ask them what they mean. They say, “Well, do you Christians say that there are three Gods or one God?” “You talk about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, yet at the same time you talk about one God… Are you monotheists or polytheists?”

It is important to understand this important Solemnity, knowing that there is one God, but three Persons.

When we consider the Scriptures, we find that it is Jesus himself who introduces us to the Trinity. He generally calls His Father, “Abba” and frequently declares that “the Father and I are one.” There is also the promise of the Holy Spirit, “who will teach us everything.”

However, it wasn’t until about the Fourth Century that Catholic theology started to articulate precisely what The Holy Trinity means for Christians. Before that, the Trinity was very much in our liturgy, but through the Christological debates of the Fourth and Fifth Century, a precise definition of the Trinity waited until then for an articulation.

I’d like to present three words that I think are key to understanding the Trinity and will assist us.

The first word is MYSTERY.

By mystery, I don’t mean a puzzle. A puzzle is something that we can comprehend with enough patience and intelligence. But the mystery of the Holy Trinity is not a puzzle. It’s something that we participate in, but we will never fully understand until we meet God face to face at the end of time. It’s not so much that we can comprehend the mystery, but the eternal mystery comprehends us!

So therefore, in the First Reading, there is a sense of the eternity of the Trinity and it is expressed in poetic style. This First Reading states the following: “I was firmly set, from the beginning, before the earth came into being.” The eternity of God is ever present, both in the past and in the future.

There is a sense of the “already, but not yet” in this great Solemnity. Already we are embraced by the Trinity, but we are not yet able to understand precisely what that means. It’s the mystery of God; the incomprehensible, but made comprehensible in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

The second word that I would like to offer you is COMMUNITY. The Trinity is a community of love. It’s not any sort of love. It’s the opposite of the sentimental and the ephemeral love that is often portrayed in today’s sugary world. But it is the love of God made present in Jesus Christ nailed on the Cross. There’s true love; it’s nailed Calvary love. It is an experience of grace. In the Vatican II Council, all the documents are placed under this type of Trinitarian community of love. It forms the bases of all our teaching, especially in the Sacrament of Matrimony. We exist in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit; the community of One God but three persons. In the Second Reading of today, St Paul expresses it beautifully when he says, “Because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”

We are taken up in this community of love through our Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. We are inserted and initiated and baptised into the community of agape love… gift love! It is the bases of all our prayer life. For this reason, Christians always begin prayer by evoking the Trinity… “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The third word I would like to offer you is MISSION.

In the Gospel today, it’s interesting how Jesus states to His apostles at the Last Supper, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now.” Living out the life of the Trinity is not something that can be intellectually embraced and then lived out. It is lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit animating our every action and thought. The intellectualising can come as best as it can later on.

As God the Father has sent Jesus the Son into the world, so Jesus, through His Life, Death and Resurrection and Pentecost, has sent the Holy Spirit into the world.

God lives in His Holy Spirit, especially in the community called the Church. But the Kingdom of God is even beyond the visible Church. God the Holy Spirit then sends us out into the world to be the presence of God. The Trinity ensures that we are, “the sent out people of God.”  We call the whole world into the community of the Trinity.

Mary, the Mother of God, the woman of the Holy Spirit, the saints and martyrs particularly, demonstrate to us the missionary power of the Spirit working in the lives of human beings for the greater glory of God.

This may be “too much for us to understand now”, but we know that the Spirit can work in the most surprising ways through us, even in our frailities and even through our weakness and sinfulness. Indeed, St Paul tells us that it is in our weakness that God’s strength can be most fully seen.

As we continue on with our Mass now, let us at all times and in all places give glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

SUNDAY 29 May 2016

Genesis 14:18-20  1Corinthians 11:23-26  Luke 9:11-17

 Throughout the Christian world today we are celebrating the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. We are thanking the Lord for His Body and Blood given to us as food for our journey in life. Corpus Christi is thanking the Lord for the Mass. Jesus gives us the Mass as an ongoing experience of His presence within us, His Church.

I’d like to offer two words that come to my mind when I reflect on the readings today in regard to The Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

The first word is “memorial”.

Even before the Gospels were written, it is quite clear that some of the writings of St Paul were already in existence.

In his writings, St Paul makes an explicit reference to the Liturgy of the Early Church. This Liturgy is clearly Eucharistic.

We have an example of that in the Second Reading today from St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

St Paul writes to us and says, “What I received from the Lord…I pass onto you…that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’” The same thing was done with the cup of the New Covenant in the Lord’s Blood.

In relating to us the essential characteristics of the primitive Eucharist, St Paul links the Last Supper with the death of Jesus on the Calvary Cross and with the Eucharist now made present in the Church. The key word is “memorial”. This word is a richer word than what is simply meant in Australian English. For instance, we have the Canberra War Memorial. It is a remembrance of those who have died in the service of the country. But the biblical word “memorial” is deeper than this. It is actually making present the Last Supper. It is not a representation, but a re-presentation of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus now.

It is clearly linked with the Jewish Passover as can be seen with reference to Melchizedek in the First Reading today, but this word “memorial” has past, present and future connotations. Ultimately, the Eucharist links us most definitely with Christ. It is not the priest or the bishop who is celebrating the Mass in a sense. It is really is Jesus Himself, the High Priest who is both Priest and Victim in the Mass.

The second word that I would like to bring to your attention from today’s reading in regard to Corpus Christi is the word “food”. There is plentiful food for the journey with the Lord.

Have you ever thought why, when we are talking about the Eucharist, that the Gospel today would be the Feeding of the Five Thousand? What’s the link? Well, there are some key words here that link us with the Second Reading and link us with what happens at the Mass.

For here in the Gospel, we find that Jesus, “Took the five loaves and two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to the disciples to distribute among the crowd.”

There were 12 baskets full left over. When the Lord feeds His people there is plentiful food.

But the key words here are the words “took”, “blessing”, “broke” and “handed them”. These four expressions are essential to the feeding of the five thousand in this famous miracle. They are also the same words used in the Second Reading from St Paul when he describes the primitive Eucharist, and they are also the essential words that define what happens at Mass.

For instance, during the Preparation of Gifts, there is the Procession; here we take the gifts. During the Eucharist Prayer, the priest blesses the gifts in thanksgiving. Then in the Lamb of God, the priest breaks the bread, Jesus, our Bread of Life. And then finally, it is given out to the people in Holy Communion.


So please remember these four key words: take, bless, break and give.

It really does help us to link all that we do at the Mass with all that has taken place in the past and what which will happen in the heavenly banquet in the fullness of time.

Our existence as Christians is radically Eucharistic. It is the prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He does for us and in us.

The Lord will never abandon us. We couldn’t be closer to Jesus than we are here at this Mass. In both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus, Corpus Christi, feeds us with all that we need to be His people in the world today. It gives us hope for the future and strength for the present.

Let us continue the Mass now and join in the great prayer of Jesus to the Father.